We present a republication of Monster Riff’s review of Born Under A Mad Sign, the latest album from Japanese doom / stoner / sludge metal act Church of Misery, released June 16th on Rise Above Records.
Originally written for Monster Riff, READ HERE
Written by Patrick Schober
Few contemporary Doom Metal bands have blazed their own successful trail like Church of Misery.
Since emerging from Tokyo (of all places to create Doom) in 1995, Church of Misery has cemented its legacy through three constants:
- They play excellent music
- They do a great Black Sabbath impression
- They’re heavily inspired by serial killers
And now, with the recent Born Under A Mad Sign, the legendary Doom Metal band continues its reputation for impressive tunes.
And thank the Metal gods for this contribution. This is the first record from Church of Misery since 2016’s And Then There Were None…—and this time around, Church of Misery has pumped up the Stoner Rock influences. You’ll hear just as much laidback Rock ‘n’ Roll akin to 1000mods or Spiritual Beggars as you will Black Sabbath.
About Church of Misery
With nearly 30 years under their belt, Church of Misery has a long history (and you can get a little more context in our History of Doom Metal).
Although they’ve had numerous lineup changes over the years, on Born Under A Mad Sign, Church of Misery is:
- Tatsu Mikami – Bass
- Yukio Okazaki – Guitar
- Toshiaki Umemura – Drums
- Kazuhiro Asaeda – Vocals (Note: Kazuhiro Asaeda was the band’s original singer!)
Born Under A Mad Sign Album Review
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Label: Rise Above Records
Track 1: Beltway Sniper (John Allen Muhammad)
With its title coming from the infamous DC shootings in the early 2000s, the opening track actually starts with a news report covering the horrible attacks. As the newscaster speaks, the band cuts through—delivering a pummeling riff that’s equal parts Sabbath and Corrosion of Conformity. In the second half of the track, the band delivers a sludgy, horrific riff to fall into—before breaking into one of the album’s many ultra-cool and laid back guitar solos.
Overall, “Beltway Sniper (John Allen Muhammad)” bounces you up and down like a funeral hearse over a forgotten cemetery lane—the perfect sound for an album with such a grotesque subject matter.
Track 2: Most Evil (Fritz Harmann)
Inspired by a German serial killer who targeted young men and boys, “Most Evil (Fritz Harmann)” is the longest track on the album, running nearly 10 minutes in total. A steady Doom-inspired song, “Most Evil (Fritz Harmann)” features plenty of brutal riffs punctuated by delicious little guitar licks for extra flavor.
Track 3: Freeway Madness Boogie (Randy Kraft)
Pulling its name from the “Scorecard Killer” of the 1970s, tacking “Boogie” into the title was a smart move. Track three is unpredictably upbeat after so much Doom and Sludge in the first couple of songs. In fact, this is more of a Stoner Rock track (especially with all of that Classic Rock influence) than Doom—which makes this a precursor for what we’ll see in the second half of the album.
Track 4: Murder Castle Blues (H.H. Holmes)
It seems like H. H. Holmes keeps appearing in contemporary pop culture (even though his murders took place more than 100 years ago), and it also seems Church of Misery has finally been captivated by “The Devil In the White City.”
Like earlier tracks, “Murder Castle Blues” contains a sort of simple charm akin to a Corrosion of Conformity classic. This is a steady but hard-driving rocker, so brace yourself before cranking the volume knob!
Track 5: Spoiler
The only track not named after a twisted serial killer or cult leader, “Spoiler” is an explosive Stoner Rock track packed with tinges of Doom, guitar exploration, and a thrilling keyboard.
After so many dark, sludgy tones in the first half of the album, “Spoiler” feels like warm, musical embrace, as if Church of Misery was playing an old Greenleaf song.
Fortunately (for a Stoner Rock fan like me, at least), the next two songs will remain in that same Stoner Rock/Metal vein!
Track 6: Come And Get Me Sucker (David Koresh)
Named after the cult leader who held off the ATF and the FBI for 51 days while his compound was sieged, “Come And Get Me Sucker” is another careful combination of Classic Rock charm and Doom aggression. The riffs are heavy, sure, but they’re punctuated by bright and charming guitar licks that invite the listener in. Plus, the second half of track six is simply one of the most entertaining sections of the album.
Track 7: Butcher Baker (Robert Hansen)
“Butcher Baker” was the nickname for Robert Hansen, a serial killer who targeted women outside of Anchorage, Alaska. Slow and deliberate, “Butcher Baker” (the song) moves at the pace of a Fu Manchu staple while maintaining the intricacies of Tony Iommi. In some parts, the album’s final track feels more like a jam session than a structured song, and that gives it an unpredictable exploratory feeling for the conclusion.
Final Thoughts On Born Under A Mad Sign
Final Score: 9/10
Standout Tracks: “Spoiler” and “Freeway Madness Boogie (Randy Kraft)”
Pros: Seven years removed since their last release, Church of Misery feels reinvigorated. Here, the production is sleeker than on albums like Master of Brutality, but the songs still hold that unpredictable charm that gives the band the freedom to write long, vaguely Psychedelic jams at Doom volumes.
At times, Born Under A Mad Sign is simply fun. “Spoiler,” for example, feels like a joyous Stoner Rock track (despite its subject matter), and it even sounds like it could have appeared on the back end of Clutch’s Blast Tyrant. Most impressively, though, the band accomplished all of this without neglecting their Doom roots.
As a final note: Burn Under A Mad Sign passed the classic “car test” with flying colors. I drive a 2016 Ford Edge with a few add-ons, but one thing it lacks is a half-decent stereo. With dull speakers that suck the life out of CDs like Sergeant Thunderhoof’s This Sceptered Veil, I was worried Born Under A Mad Sign would turn into a snooze fest. On the contrary, this was the best album I’ve listened to on my abominable car speakers. The album sounds nearly as good in there as it does on my much better speakers inside the house!
Cons: It took me a few listens to hear the nuances in these songs—something that was initially difficult as some of the ideas are repeated here and there. And the first time I reached “Butcher Baker (Robert Hansen)” in the rotation, I just felt tired.
Fortunately, a proper (and uninterrupted) listen in the car meant I could properly immerse myself in the music—and that’s when each song’s individuality stood out.
The lesson: Give yourself the time and space to truly appreciate this album!
Learn More About Church of Misery
To learn more about Church of Misery, follow them on Instagram.